Adam Dant at the Hypercomics exhibition.
Adam Dant’s real name might seem like an apt pseudonym already, a nod to both the post-punkster from Adam and the Ants and resurrected adventurer Adam Adamant, but from 1995 until the eve of the millennium, Dant adopted the nom-de-plume Donald Parsnips. Back then, if you were lucky enough to run into him on London’s streets, he might well have surprised you by handing you a copy of Donald Parsnips Daily Journal, his wry eight-page, palm-sized ‘newspaper’. He would write, draw and photocopy these booklets compulsively every day, no matter what, starting at 6am and distribute them willy-nilly for free in the manner of an 18th-century pamphleteer. To reach passers-by Dant also cobbled together his own newsstand, plastered with deranged headlines like Life of Strangers Could Hold Key To Future Claim and Many Predict End of Speculation.
Adam Dant’s Newsstand
Today, having become an acclaimed artist under his own name and winning the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2002 with his Anecdotal Plan of Tate Britain, Dant has had his entire Daily Journal run reissued through his London gallery Hales in a boxed-set edition of 10 for £6,000 apiece. His predominantly drawn projects are ludic puzzles layered with apocryphal theories like Underneathism and arcane references. Although his shows and subjects whisk him around Britain and abroad, from this summer’s drink-themed exhibit at Walsall’s New Art Gallery to New York’s Adam Baumgold Gallery from the end of October, London’s fecund mulch of history is a mainstay of his output from his studio in a former sweetshop in Shoreditch.
Adam Dant: Anecdotal Plan of Tate Britain
Hence the strip below, conceived for the October 2010 issue of Art Review relates to a make-believe Elizabethan urban magician, Doctor London, whose fantastical library Dant has installed in the top mezzanine floor of Battersea Park’s Pump House Gallery. Inspired by Borges’ bibliomania and Italian ‘biblioteche’ of the Mannerist era, Dant fills shelf after shelf with trompe l’oeil tomes, their spines painted in oils under chicken wire. Their titles play with the transposition of terms in the English language between city and body, such as head-space, evacuation, arteries. Atop each bookcase, a gilded plaque categorises them according to both district of London and their equivalent Latin biological part, according to the doctor’s Tudor map of the capital, overlaid with the outlines of a foetal giant, head in Westminster, long neck along The Strand, streets tinted red as bloodstreams. As the finishing touch, he has fragranced it with Florentine sandalwood potpourri.
Meanwhile, this very day, 19 September, Dant is up in the wilds of Scotland at The Great Glen Artists’ Airshow at Dalcrombie, Loch Ruthven, Inverness-shire, to inaugurate a specially commissioned project presented by London Fieldworks in collaboration with The Arts Catalyst. From 10am-5pm, Dant will be conducting a perambulatory bus tour along the length of the spectacular glen and will reveal unusual and possibly hidden aspects of Loch Ness and the Caledonian canal with the aid of a new ‘aerial map’, Biblioteque Outlandia, devised by Dant. The climax of the journey will be the arrival at and the first public unveiling of Outlandia, the tree house for artists, which will be inhabited by Dant in the manner of the Scottish enlightenment. Dant will be the first of many artists to transform this extraordinary Utopian aerial studio, devised and designed by London Fieldworks as a long-term artists’ project for Fort William. Further ahead, from late November, Dant is exhibiting again at Hales in London. In the meantime, make sure not to miss his installation at Hypercomics which closes next Sunday, 26 September and helped to earn the show a five-star review as the critics’ Exhibition of the Week in Time Out.Posted: September 19, 2010
A version of this Article appeared in the October 2010 issue of Art Review.